Article: Who Ya Gonna Call?
August 6, 2009
“Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia Business Journal” cover story
Disaster Task Force Uses Creative Marketing to Drive Home Need for Preparedness
For every business that requires the safe archiving of data, guarding against the threat that some type of disaster will damage or destroy the data should be as fundamental a concept as having a roof to guard your office against the rain.
Fully 94 percent of businesses that experience catastrophic data loss close permanently. Forty-three percent just never re-open. Fifty-one percent close within two years. Yet for years, the companies that market disaster preparedness plans for data in this region have been met with a collective yawn from the business community.
“I believe that disaster preparedness gets so little attention because it is not flashy and most folks think that catastrophic events can never happen to them, so, to them, preparing is a waste of time and money,” says Erik Rolf, founder of Deliberare, a local data security firm. For most businesses everything from finding the right custodial service to keeping Twitter up to date seems more important than preparing for a possible catastrophe.
“Having worked with companies in virtually every industry across our region, I have found that one thought continually surfaces – ‘It probably won’t ever happen here’,” says Chad Sorrell, founder of TCIM, a local firm that offers off-site archival data storage. “Sadly, statistical research tells a different story. It can – and one day will happen here and, the level of preparedness of our health care providers, utilities, local governments, law enforcement and even grocery stores, will have a direct impact on the ability of our entire region to collectively respond to and recover from a devastating event.”
With that collective malaise facing them, Deliberare (security), TCIM (off-site archiving), BCTI (networking) and OnePartner (data center) formed the Disaster Task Force. It’s mission, says Tom Deaderick, president of OnePartner and founder of the task force, is to bring the region’s businesses into a better state of disaster preparedness by using creative marketing to shatter the “It can’t happen to me” barrier. Traditionally, data protection firms have used photos of disaster areas such as the Americus Georgia hospital that was hit by an F3 tornado in 2007 to illustrate the possible impact of a catastrophic event on a business. But in one of the least tornado-prone areas of the country, that approach has yielded little in the way of results.
Recently, however, Deaderick hit on the fact that the relatively low likelihood of any one particular type of disaster was blinding business owners to the fact that any catastrophic event could harm or even destroy their business. It didn’t matter that a tornado or hurricane is unlikely to damage a business in the Tri-Cities. A failure of the HVAC system could have the same consequences. So the DTF goes in the opposite direction. When the task force meets with a business, they don’t talk about unlikely disaster scenarios. They run mock disasters featuring absolutely impossible scenarios. Ice storms in July is a popular choice, but Deaderick’s personal favorite it the zombie apocalypse or, as the DTF refers to it, Z-Day.
How is a mock attack by fictional creatures in any way relevant to your business? “if zombies were, in fact, real, then we would have learned how to destroy them and prevent zombie attacks long ago and would have developed measures that we could use to contain them, don’t you think?” asks Deaderick. “Well maybe we wouldn’t. After all, we’ve seen tornadoes destroy other businesses, even hospitals, and yet most organizations fail to develop contingency plans for those. Not to mention, fires, floods, power outages or HVAC failures. Aren’t these organizations choosing to react in a panic rather than taking precautions to ensure survival?”
By running mock disasters, the DTF also brings more of an organization into the process of disaster prevention, rather than just preaching to the one person a company may have who handles IT. The point of mocking up impossible scenarios like summer blizzards and zombie attacks is that it’s not how likely any particular catastrophe will occur, but rather how prepared a business is to deal with any catastrophe.
By joining together, the four firms that comprise the DTF can offer solutions to help almost any Tri-cities business be prepared, says Chase Boles, founder of BCTI. “We deal with a lot of companies of different size and scale. Sometimes the people who run an organization believe that it’s not worth spending the money to do this. They think that the likelihood of it happening is outweighed by the cost, especially when you do a ‘create-it-all-yourself’ strategy. If a business has to do all the work on its own from the technology to the facility to house the data, then it might be cheaper to let the disaster force you out of business than go bankrupt putting this all together.”
With the services offered by the firms that make up the task force, however says Deaderick, that cost is mitigated and organizations can seriously consider protecting themselves against catastrophe. “the things that Chase and BCTI can do are things that I don’t even try to do in my business. TCIM is a great solution. I don’t anything like Erik’s mastery of security. So there’s great value in putting all these resources together and letting businesses know that this level of preparedness can be achieved here.”
Adds Boles, “for most businesses, there’s no room in today’s economy to take time to recover. A couple of years ago you might have been able to say, ‘Hey, we’re down, but we’ve got good insurance and we’ll be back up and running in a couple of weeks. Now a lot of businesses are a lot closer to the edge than we were two years ago and this could definitely push them across.”
“I met with a company recently that said they were happy with the fact that if a fire or some disaster wiped out their data, they had good insurance to cover it,” says Deaderick. “I thought, do you really want to do business like that, not being able to remember what you said or did a year or two years or five years ago and thinking that’s okay because you have insurance? I wondered if their clients would really buy into that if they did have a fire.”
The bottom line, says Deaderick is that businesses have a choice. They can take the time and effort to prepare, or they can pray nothing bad ever happens, and if it does, “then their response is panic and chaos. That’s the choice they’re making. A catastrophic event is something you either brag about after your business survives it, or your business doesn’t survive.”